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January 30, 2014 8:43 am

PHS to face league-leading Lander Valley on Saturday

Written by Tom Lawrence

Tigers are 5-0, Panthers 4-1 in Class 3A West 

The Powell boys’ basketball team took a big step toward winning the Class 3A West on Friday by going into Cody and knocking off the top-ranked Broncs.

The next challenge is this weekend, when the No. 5 Panthers host the No. 2 Lander Valley Tigers, who are first in the West with a 5-0 record. The Tigers are 11-2 overall.

Powell improved its record to 8-4 with the 50-44 win over Cody, and moved into second place in the West with a 4-1 mark. Cody has the same record, but since Powell won the head-to-head matchup, the Panthers have the edge.

Lander Valley has been on a roll all season, opening with a seven-game winning streak before losing to Douglas 59-52 in overtime Dec. 21. The Tigers righted the ship and have won four of five since then, with only a 50-49 loss to 4A Riverton during that run.

On Friday night, while the Panthers host a winless Pinedale team, Lander Valley will be in Cody, where the Broncs are sure to be smarting after the loss to Powell.

Panthers coach Chase Kistler was not willing to dismiss Pinedale, which comes into Powell with an 0-13 record. The key for the Panthers is to play a complete game each time they take the floor, he said.

“People keep asking me how we will play against Lander, but I am more concerned about us,” Kistler said. “I want to focus on us and getting better and playing better.”

He said he has watched tapes of two Lander games and is impressed by the Tigers’ all-around game.

“They’re not a fast-breaking team, they’re not a power team,” Kistler said. “They have a shot blocker, they can score inside, they can shoot and play defense — they’re just a good all-around team.”

He said while Saturday’s game will be big, there is still a lot of season left. The Panthers will travel to Lander Valley on Feb. 21 and will host Cody to wrap up the regular season on March 1. Kistler said he just wants his team to improve each day.

Lander Valley coach Terry Hopkin knows he is also facing a pair of tough games this weekend.

“We need to play well and let them know we are for real,” Hopkin told The Ranger, Fremont County’s daily newspaper.

“It will be tough, and we know that,” Hopkin said to The Ranger. “We will work hard all week preparing so we can compete at our best. This is what we have been working for, to get a shot at the No. 1 team in the state. Powell is always tough to beat at home.”

The Panthers hope that is true this weekend as they head into the homestretch of the season, with weekend doubleheaders from now until Regionals on March 6-8.

Ten of Powell’s first 12 games were played on the road, but five of the final 10 games will be played at home.

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